GB Under-16s have a great day in Ostrava

Wed 12 Jul 2017

By Bob Fromer

Ostrava, Czech Republic: 12 July – The GB Under-16 Girls’ Fastpitch Team split a pair of games today at the European Cadette Championship – but a 5-2 win over Ukraine ensured they will get to the next playoff round and the 4-0 loss to Italy was closer than most people would have expected.

Altogether, it was a very good day for a GB Cadette Team that is following Head Coach Johanna Malisani’s mantra of getting “1% better every game”, and today represented far more than a 1% improvement on the games against France and Serbia on Monday.

Ukraine is an aspiring team and Italy is one of Europe’s elite programmes, and the GB Cadette Team won fairly comfortably against Ukraine after a shaky start, and then played a very even contest with Italy that might even have turned out differently.

This is a GB Under-16 Team that is coming together and beginning to maximise its ability.


What it means​

Both games today were part of the first Championship playoff round at this tournament, and GB will play their final game in Pool E tomorrow morning against the Czech Republic.

The reason that GB’s win this morning against Ukraine guaranteed to get them to the next round is that only two of the eight teams that have advanced to the Championship playoffs will be eliminated in this round, one from each of the two four-team pools (E and F).  Having lost to Italy, GB, and the Czech Republic today in Pool E, Ukraine will be the team that drops, while GB moves on.

The catch for the next playoff round, however, which is essentially a six-team round-robin with played games counted, is that teams will bring their record from this round with them against the other teams from their group that go through.

Confused…?  Confusing formats are a speciality of the European Softball Federation!

Let’s just say that the more games you can win against the other teams in your group that go forward with you to the next round, the better your chances of getting to the final four and the Page Playoffs. 

Here are how today’s games went, in the order in which they happened.


GB v Ukraine​

It was only their third game in the tournament, and their first in the initial Championship playoff round at the European Cadette Championship, but the GB Under-16 team’s 5-2 win over Ukraine this morning, as noted above, almost certainly booked their passage to the second playoff round that will begin on Thursday afternoon.

GB Head Coach Johanna Malisani, seen at the right celebrating after the game, said, “This was a great team win.  We played some good defense and we were aggressive on the bases and at bat.  We played a good game against a good club.”

GB was led once again by pitcher Hannah Edwards, who threw a complete six-inning game, struck out nine and chipped in with two of GB’s eight hits.

But there were significant contributions up and down the GB line-up.  Diana Nisbett had a single and a booming double that almost left the park; Rose Taylor Bhanji, Ivy Clark and Esme Potter had key base hits in the second inning to bring GB from 1-0 down to 2-1 ahead, and Ivy made a fine catch on a foul pop-up in the final inning; Glynis McGuire was solid at second base, especially covering first on Ukraine’s innumerable bunt attempts; and Elise Coulthard did a fine job after taking over at catcher in the third inning.


Bunt and bunt again​​

Ukraine had clearly done their homework on GB and didn’t fancy their chances trying to hit away against Hannah Edwards, despite the fact that they parlayed a walk, a passed ball and a single to right field into a run in the top of the first inning.  After the top of the second inning, however, when Hannah struck out all three hitters on a total of 10 pitches, Ukraine resorted to just one tactic: bunt, bunt again and bunt some more.

And they did have some initial success, getting runners on base with bunt singles to open the third and fourth innings, and drawing a bad throw on a bunt to open the fifth inning.  But the GB infield gradually got on top of the tactic, and once a Ukranian hitter had two strikes on her, which effectively took the bunt away, she was in trouble.

Ukraine only had three hits over the course of the game – the single to right field in the first inning and the two aforementioned bunts – and that wasn’t enough to generate much offense or enough runs.


Trading runs​​

GB’s response to the 1-0 lead that Ukraine grabbed in the top of the first inning, when Hannah Edwards was a bit slow to find her rhythm, came in the bottom of the second against Ukranian starter Olena Vershynina.

With one out, Rose Taylor Bhanji popped a single over second base.  With Ivy Clark at the plate and the count full, Johanna Malisani put Rose in motion, which drew the Ukraine shortstop towards second base.  And Ivy slapped the ball through the vacated spot and into left field for a double, bringing Rose all the way around to score and tie the game.

A few minutes later it was untied after Ivy stole third and, with two out, Esme Potter drove a soft line drive single over second base to bring her in.

GB’s 2-1 lead didn’t last long, however.  In the top of the third inning, Ukraine lead-off hitter Nataliia Kornozevych reached first when she struck out but the ball eluded the catcher, moved to second on another passed ball, and scored on a bunt single and a sacrifice bunt.

Briefly, it looked as if Ukraine might get more.  But Hannah Edwards struck out Amina Radvikova and got Anna Khodakovska to ground out to second to end the threat.

GB then mounted a three-run rally in the bottom of the third inning that won them the game.


Winning rally​

Diana Nisbett led off with a ground ball single up the middle, and with one out, Hannah Edwards slashed a single just inside first base and down the right field line, sending Diana to third.  Glynis McGuire walked to load the bases, and a wild pitch brought Diana home and moved the other runners to second and third.

At this point, Ukraine changed pitchers, replacing Olena Vershynina with Daria Kobylianska, and she struck out Rose Taylor Bhanji for the second out.  But Ivy Clark’s hard-hit ground ball towards second skipped off the glove of Valeriia Doloban, both GB runners scored, and GB had a 5-2 lead that proved to be enough.

GB left the bases loaded in the fourth inning and left runners on second and third in the fifth inning without adding to the scoreboard.  But Hannah Edwards had only two baserunners over the final three innings, both as a result of bunts, and Ukraine’s last three bunt attempts in the game were all scooped up by Hannah and fired to Glynis McGuire covering first base.

It was an excellent team performance by GB, and it means that if nothing else, the squad will be playing a minimum five more meaningful games this week against increasingly tough teams, which is what they’re here to do.  Win or lose those games, the learning curve will be tremendous.

 

GB v Italy​

A couple of hours before this game started, Italy had lost a tense 3-1 playoff game to the Czech Republic, and the last thing they could afford to do this afternoon was lose to GB.

They didn’t – but a high-quality, quick and mostly well-played contest between the two teams was a much closer affair than the Italians may have been expecting.

And had a couple of key plays gone differently, the outcome might have been different as well.

GB out-hit the Italians 5-4, and GB pitcher Hannah Edwards struck out seven Italians, just one less than Italian pitcher Chiarra Marazzi managed against a much-less experienced GB line-up.  Both pitchers threw complete games, and both teams left four runners on base. 

From those bare statistics, there was little to choose between them.


Chances​​

GB certainly had some scoring chances, particularly in the first inning when Diana Nisbett and Hannah Edwards both singled, and the same pair did it again in the bottom of the sixth inning. 

But both rallies came to nothing, and a couple of GB baserunners were cut down during the game trying to take extra bases in an attempt to force the Italian defense into errors.

GB batters were certainly not over-awed or dominated by Chiarra Marazzi, but they couldn’t get the key hit to turn chances into runs, something that would have made the Italians very nervous indeed.


Runs

Italy, by contrast, did score four runs – one in the top half of the second inning, two in the third, and one more in the top of the sixth.  But two of those runs were unearned, and depending on scorekeepers’ judgments, there was a case for saying that all of them were.

The GB defense played well in this game, and didn’t buckle under pressure, but there were a couple of balls that GB fielders did well to reach but couldn’t quite hold, and another couple of defensive mistakes, and against a team as experienced as Italy, any mistake can be fatal.

In effect, Hannah Edwards, pitching her second complete game of the day, threw a composed and courageous game in which, with a little luck, she might have held the Italians scoreless.  And not many pitchers can say that.

It’s never fun to lose, but the GB Cadettes can take a host of positives away from today, including getting to the tournament’s second playoff round and playing pretty much on level terms with one of the top teams in Europe.


Looking ahead​

Now the games come thick and fast – the reward for progressing in the playoffs – but GB should go into tomorrow in good heart, despite having a punishing three games to play.

First up will be the undefeated Czech Republic at 9.00 am to complete the first playoff round, and that will probably be followed in the early afternoon, depending on results, with a second playoff round game against Russia.

Then, at 4.00 pm, GB will play the Netherlands, and finally Germany on Friday morning. 

For GB to progress to the final four, at least one win from that little lot, and probably two, will be required.

All results, schedules and pool standings can be found on the European Softball Federation website at: http://competition.europeansoftball.org/2017/ostrava/schedule.php.

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Comments

12
Jul

Ken Clark 20:22

Hello Bob.
We have cancelled other activities and managed to watch all of the GB matches and have been very pleased to have your reports each evening to help us understand some of the play.  We will,  no doubt, know some of the rules by Saturday night !
Like you, we have been very impressed by the standard of play and are particularly proud, of course, in the part that our grandaughter, Ivy, has played.
Thanks so much for adding to our enjoyment with your reports.
Regards,
Ken

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